Both are 22 years of age. Both wear yellow. Both wear the number ten shirt. Both have the weight of a nation on their shoulders. Both are set to face off against each other when Columbia and Brazil clash in the quarter finals of the World Cup come Friday.
Who are we talking about? The two biggest stars of the World Cup so far, Neymar and James Rodriguez, and it seems that the rest of the world has picked up on the battle as well.
Neymar saw his season with Barcelona falter – but his World Cup has done far from that. He has been a star for Brazil – perhaps one of the only ones, with the players around him failing to impress and coming in for a fair bit of stick.
Rodriguez meanwhile has shown that he can cut the mustard on the international stage and is the name on everyone’s lips this summer, hipster or not. One thing that the Columbian forward has which Neymar does not is the fact that players around him are performing.
Neymar has to look to Fred, Jo and the Hulk for support. He would do well to turn to Oscar and ask how he dealt with having an equally hapless trio of Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o to offer him support last season.
Whilst Columbia thought the loss of Radamel Falcao would potentially kill their dreams this summer, that has not been the case. Other players have flourished and the likes of Jackson Martinez and Juan Cuadrado have shone brightly. Rodriguez can have an off game – not that it seems likely – and still hope someone else produces magic to see his side through. Neymar clearly cannot.
Rodriguez has managed to net five goals so far during the World Cup and has been the revelation of the tournament – not that anyone who has watched the player this season for Monaco or indeed throughout his career would have expected any less.
Both had debut seasons at new clubs last term and whilst his Columbine counterpart may have had a good season in Ligue 1, the same cannot be said for Neymar, who has found his first season at the Camp Nou difficult and had the added pressure of having to prove himself all over again because of that.
The Brazilian people trusted Neymar to deliver this summer – and they were right to do so. He has been their talisman, their anchor and the only forward who looks capable of producing at times.
He also has a huge weight of expectation heaped upon him – which Rodriguez to an extend does not – with the home nation almost feeling destined to win, and the desire is all too clear to see, etched on the faces of both supporters and players.
To have the bottle to step up and take the final, potentially match winning penalty for Brazil against Chile spoke volumes about Neymar’s character. He does not shy away from responsibility and if anything, has slightly more experience dealing with the pressure and expectation than Rodriguez does, with the Monaco star benefiting from his nation’s ‘dark horse’ tag and the hipster love for him.
That may all change now of course, with the forward expected to deliver some pretty sensational stuff and whilst the winner from Friday is still undecided, one thing that does look like being the case is that both players will once again have to face off with each other next season should Rodriguez get his seemingly inevitable move to Real Madrid.
We have had Messi v Ronaldo, now comes the dawn of a new rivalry. James v Neymar and it looks set to be a cracker.
Footyettes. Who do you think will deliver on Friday? Will either star compete for the Ballon d’Or next season? Let us know your thoughts below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.